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Effective Communication 101 for CIOs

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Storyboarding and Presentation Writing (33-slide PowerPoint presentation). You may have heard that management consultants spend the majority of their time cranking out PowerPoint slides. There is much truth to do this--and for good reason. A PowerPoint presentation is not only a great communication tool, it is also the form of most consulting deliverables--i.e. the [read more]

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“When it comes to communicating, the CIO is both a storyteller and educator.” Chris Manriquez, VP for IT and CIO, California State University, Dominguez Hills.

CIOs must be both a storyteller and an educator. Aside from this, they must also be a strategist. The majority of CIOs might speak the language of technology fluently, but they struggle to communicate effectively with other business areas. A 30-minute presentation on cloud computing or blockchain is simply part of the job, but when it comes to working with business executives or presenting to the Board of Directors, the tendency toward detail-oriented technical conversations and presentations can leave both parties frustrated. Even CIOs who come from business backgrounds get bogged down in the details of technology when communicating at the executive level.

CIOs need to use specific techniques when closing the communications gap between the IT organization and other business areas. IT is critical to the future of the enterprise in how it supports the bigger strategies at play during Strategy Development.

The Changing Face of Business and Its Impact on CIOs Today

Information Technology (IT) is changing how businesses operate from the technology core to the strategic direction.  In fact, digital business is driving a need for more strategic engagement with the Board and Executives with technology now being both a business enabler and a business driver as well.

With the shift in technology, Boards of today have now realized how critical information and technology are to success. In fact, they have become increasingly interested in hearing the enterprise’s strategic story direct from the CIO.

This is the challenge that CIOs are facing now.  As technology becomes more integral to the business strategy, CIOs will be called on to present to the Board with increasing frequency. Boards do not want to hear about the inner workings of qubits and algorithms. The Board wants to know how technology will push the enterprise forward and how to balance any risk.

The Growing Pressure on CIOs

With the shift in technology coupled with the increasing demand of business and the Board, the CIOs are now under growing pressure to improve how they communicate with the Board. CIOs must be more aware of how they frame their conversations so that they can better relate to the Board what the Board is expecting to hear.

With the growing pressure on CIOs when it comes to communication, CIOs must wear the hat of the business leader responsible for the information and technology investment. They must also be able to develop the story of shareholder value for the Board, and nothing more.

At this point, CIOs must be able to demonstrate business acumen during presentations and add value to the decisions made during discussions.

A Purview on Value Disciplines Model: An Aid in Formulating Valuating Strategy

CIOs must understand how to create a strategy that showcases how Information Technology will support bigger business goals.  A context must be created for the enterprise and that context must be used to articulate the contribution of IT to the business capabilities that will drive business success.

To improve structured communication, one powerful method is to use business frameworks.  One strategy framework that can help CIOs tell a business story of success is the Value Disciplines Model.

The Value Disciplines Model was created by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, authors of “The Discipline of Market Leaders.” According to Treacy and Wiersema, there are 3 value discipline strategies that organizations can implement in order to create added value and distinctive character relative to its competitors. These 3 value disciplines strategies are Customer Intimacy, Operational Excellence, and Product Leadership.

The Value Disciplines Model highlights these 3 strategies which can serve as a lens in focusing on strategic decisions. This is where creating success starts.

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